WASHINGTON, May 23, 2016 — Reacting to the unexpected popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton has pivoted to the left during the primary season. This is an appeal to voters who share Sanders’ socialist, redistributionist views.
Sanders continues to attract a large number of people who have suffered in President Obama’s economy or who believe that free college education and health care are basic rights. Once she has the nomination, though, Clinton will pivot to run on Obama’s record. Is that a winning strategy?
Clinton’s view on the minimum wage will change. Like most members of her party, she believes that the minimum wage should increase significantly from the $7.25 per hour. Sanders and his followers want $15 per hour. Clinton will settle for $12; $15 would be too much for small business to bear, and the pragmatist Clinton knows she could never get $15 through Congress.
She will try to move Sanders supporters closer to a middle ground by emphasizing the difficulties of working with an obstructionist Congress. “Half a loaf is better than nothing,” she will say.
Clinton will focus on what she believes are the achievements of the Obama/Clinton years in economic and foreign policy, social justice, and environmental protection. Because Obama is enjoying good approval ratings, Clinton probably believes that her best chance of winning and stopping the Trump movement will be to run as an extension of President Obama.
Will it work?
The economy has slowed over the last 12 months. While the consensus view among experts is that the economy will pick up steam for the rest of the year, the slowdown may continue or worsen. This view has some support. The Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in June and perhaps once again in the fall. Also, the U.S. is seeing a spike in the number of failed companies, and the global economic outlook is poor.
Clinton will note that for the last 75 months, the U.S. has had positive job growth; the unemployment rate has fallen to under 5 percent, and millions more Americans have health insurance.
That will be a difficult sell. Due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, a large portion of the new jobs are part-time, offering less than 30 hours per week. Many of the jobs are low-paid, and most individuals with middle-class incomes or below have experienced eight years of stagnating incomes and little or no opportunity for better jobs.
Middle-class opportunity comes when economic growth is 4 percent or higher. Obama is the first president since the GDP measure was created to serve a term without at least one year of economic growth above 3 percent. His best year was 2.5 percent, and his average is around 2 percent.
President Obama never made economic growth a high priority. He focused instead on curing perceived social injustices, redistributing income from those who earned it to those who didn’t. The American taxpayers are fed up at this point, so Obama’s economy won’t help Clinton win votes.
Alternatively, she could try to run on the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. She often points out that she is the experienced candidate. But this administration’s foreign policy amounts to a consistent string of failures. Everywhere from Afghanistan and Iran, to Libya, to Russia, China and North Korea, the turn-the-other-cheek Obama/Clinton foreign policy has resulted in more threatening environments.
Clinton may be experienced, but her experience is in not getting the job done. Experience is not the same as success.
Obamacare is a disaster. About 15 million previously uninsured people now have health insurance. That means the percent of insured Americans increased from just over 85 percent to just under 90 percent. But at the same time, most Americans are paying higher premiums and higher deductibles and yet now have fewer choices for coverage. Insurance coverage has expanded, but the quality, availability and affordability of healthcare can’t be shown to have improved.
State and federally run exchanges are losing insurance companies as they continue to sustain substantial losses and withdraw from the program. The current Congress and likely the next one won’t authorize any more funds. The ACA may fail.
Clinton will emphasize the Obama administration’s vaunted progress on environmental issues. But on most lists of voter preferences, the environment has a lower priority than economic well-being.
With only 21 percent of Americans believing this country is on the right track, running on Obama’s record will not be a winning strategy.
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